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What Not to Do in Australia

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Going nude

Don't go nude in public places. Don't go streaking at sports events — this has happened more than once: a cricketer is ready to bat and a streaker runs into the field stark naked — and you're likely to run into the arms of the law.

But, of course, there are exceptions.

In March 2010, 5000 men and women disrobed completely on the steps and in the forecourt of normally prim and proper Sydney Opera House. They were part of American artist Spencer Tunick's nude art installation, The Base.

This was not the first time Tunick had photographed masses of naked people, having done so, for instance, in Mexico City in 2007.

After Sydney there were Tunick nudes in Aurillac, Auvergene, France, later in 2010 and on the shores of the Dead Sea in 2011.

And where can you go nude legally?

  • There are a number of nude, or clothing-optional, beaches in Australia where it's almost mandatory to take off your clothes. Going topless is, uh, tolerated in most beaches.

  • On February 17, 2013, close to 1000 swimmers — early estimates were that some 200 men and women swimmers would participate — competed in the Sydney Skinny, the first nude ocean swim for men and women which started at Sydney's Cobblers Beach on Middle Head.

  • In Melbourne more than 100 naked cyclists joined the annual Naked Bike Ride on March 3, 2013.

On the beach

Don't take risks on Australian beaches.

Rips or dangerous undertows have put swimmers in serious danger. And be wary of poisonous jellyfish. Sharks, too.

For beach safety, choose to swim only on patrolled beaches and between the flags.

In the bush

Unless you're an expert in getting around in — and out of — wilderness areas, don't stray away from marked paths when going bushwalking in Australia.

Bushwalking is so much part of Australian life, it is still mystifyingly heartbreaking when someone gets lost, and in some instances dies, in the bush.

Most Australian national parks — such as the easily accessible national parks in the Sydney region — feature kilometres of walking tracks. The tracks are there for a purpose: use them.

But if you do want to venture further into the wild away from the designated tracks, and are fit, experienced and prepared to do so, don't forget to lodge details of your planned route with the relevant authorities and have an EPIRB (emergency position indicator radio beacon) with you.

Language, language

  • Don't try to be cute and use euphemisms — such as "comfort room" or "powder room" — for "toilet." Just ask for the toilet, mate, and you'll be right.

  • When asking for your bill at a restaurant, don't say "check" which will puzzle us Aussies. Just ask for your "bill."

  • Don't talk about "elevator" when asking about an elevator. It's a "lift," mate, a "lift."

    Avoid using "Mr," "Mrs," "Ms," "sir" or "ma'am" as these would mark you as not quite being local. You'll notice we generally call our Prime Minister by her first name and not Mrs Gillard. Of course, "Prime Minister" as a form of address is fine. Exceptions: people in the hospitality industry, such as waiters and waitresses, do use "sir"and "ma'am" in addressing customers.

Driving a car

  • If you're used to driving on the right-hand side of the road, don't do that in Australia. Here we drive on the left-hand side.

  • Avoid using American terms for certain car parts. It's not a windshield, it's a windscreen. It's not the trunk, it's the boot. And if you're using gasoline for fuel, that's "petrol," mate.
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